Libertarian Socialism: A Better Reconciliation between Self-Ownership and Equality
Social Theory and Practice , Vol. 37, pp. 211-226, 2011
15 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2010 Last revised: 15 May 2011
Date Written: July 5, 2010
Socialists believe that equality, community and economic democracy can only be achieved by a system of joint ownership of the means of production. These property rights do not, as such, pass judgement as to what rights individuals have to their own person. Libertarians believe that individual liberty and autonomy are only coextensive with a set of stringent rights to the person and its powers. These property rights do not, as such, pass judgement as to what rights individuals have to the external world. Bringing libertarianism and socialism together is therefore, in principle, possible. Indeed, one of the major innovations of the left-libertarianism of Hillel Steiner, Michael Otsuka and Peter Vallentyne has been to show how that theory can itself be rendered consistent with substantive equality of condition, without taking the further step towards socialism. This paper is an attempt to take this further step, in a way that reconciles individual autonomy and radical equality of opportunity consistently with values prized by socialists. To those libertarians drawn to socialist values (such as the pioneers of 19th century anarchism), the paper offers a reconciliation that is arguably more true to these values than left-libertarianism. To those socialists drawn to libertarian values, it offers an alternative to left-libertarianism that avoids the pitfalls of statism.
Keywords: Left-Libertarianism, Equality, Economic Democracy
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